Vernor v Autodesk – why I think Autodesk is right

Well, there’s a statement I wasn’t expecting to make. Let me preface these comments with a disclaimer. I have no legal qualifications whatsoever. I make no claims of knowing who is legally right in this David v. Goliath legal battle; that’s for the courts to decide. When I make the statement that I think Autodesk is right, I don’t mean legally right, I mean morally right.

I have been following this fight with interest, but only in a half-baked way, third-hand via commentators (like myself, now). Based on my skimming of that commentary, my natural inclination to support the underdog, and my general dislike of of Autodesk’s previous and current legal adventures, I had been of the firm but privately held opinion that Vernor was right and Autodesk was wrong.

Today, after noting that new filings had been made, I had a proper look at some (not all) of … Full post

AutoCAD 2010 release date

After my recent attendance at the AutoCAD 2010 launch, I have a few dozen subjects I’d like to blog about, lots of video editing to do, and not enough free time in which to do it. Many of my fellow launch-attending bloggers have beaten me to it with many of the meaty bits, but I’ll be covering much of that stuff in my own way and from my own perspective over the next few weeks.

One thing I can do with minimum effort is to pass on an important piece of information I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere yet: the date that Autodesk plans to actually ship AutoCAD 2010. That date is (drumroll)…

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

No great surprises there; the 12-month release cycle continues as usual.

Although this information was imparted to a room full of bloggers in an on-the-record session, I suspect it may have slipped out … Full post

Autodesk not listening? The response, part 1.

While attending the AutoCAD 2010 launch today, I took the opportunity to interview three Autodesk people: Eric Stover, Jon Page and Shaan Hurley. I raised the issue of Autodesk being seen as not listening to its customers, and was given a very comprehensive response. Here is the first of two parts of that interview.

YouTube link.

Disclosure: Transport, accommodation and some meals were provided by Autodesk.

Why do you think Autodesk isn’t listening?

I frequently see people remark that Autodesk doesn’t listen to its customers. I’ve made that remark myself in relation to certain specific items, most recently the botched discussion group update. Of the six Rate Autodesk polls, the Listening to its customers poll shows easily the biggest bias towards the wrong end of the graph.

Now I happen to know that Autodesk goes to some lengths to find out what its customers are thinking (more on that later), but still this feeling of being ignored persists among its customers. Why is this so? Why do so many of you hold this view? I have my own thoughts about this, but right now I’m more interested in yours.

I’d like to see some examples that make you think that Autodesk doesn’t care about your viewpoints, wishes and desires. If you can suggest ways in which Autodesk could do things better, let’s … Full post

(Don’t) Ask Autodesk a question

If you had a real live Autodesk development person standing in front of you right now (an AutoCAD Product Manager, for example) and were allowed to ask one question, what would it be?

Please add a comment here with your question. I would ask that you keep your question civil and reasonably concise (one or two sentences), and bear in mind that the development person in front of you isn’t going to have a useful answer to policy questions about pricing, license agreements, customer service and so on. Other than that, anything goes, so let’s have ’em.

I can’t promise that your question will get answered, but I’ll see what I can do.

Note: comments are now closed, as this post keeps getting mistaken for an ongoing mechanism for asking Autodesk questions.

Adding Heidi

Although I want to keep my list of links reasonably compact, it should not have taken until now to add the AutoCAD Insider blog of Autodesk’s Heidi Hewett to the list. Heidi’s idea of going through the AutoCAD alphabet is a great one, and I wish I had thought of it.

blog nauseam has been light on for AutoCAD tips and information lately. Although that’s going to change for the better soon, there’s plenty of that kind of stuff on Heidi’s blog to keep you amused in the meantime. It’s useful stuff for all AutoCAD users, explained well.

Oh, and Heidi, the Boundary command was (kind of) added in Release 12, except it was called Bpoly at the time. It was renamed to Boundary in Release 13. The Bpoly command lives on to this day, doing exactly the same as Boundary.

Has Carol left the building?

We all know Carol Bartz has taken on the challenge of leading Yahoo!, but does that mean she’s no longer with Autodesk? I would have thought she would have had her hands more than full with her new job, but I haven’t seen any mention of her giving up her Autodesk position as Executive Chairman of the Board. The Autodesk web site still has her listed in that position, so I guess she’s still there. She’s on various other boards and councils too, so maybe she’s sticking around at Autodesk long-term?

How well cooked is the average major new AutoCAD feature these days?

I’ve now closed the poll that asks this question, and the results show a typical bell-curve shape with the peak clearly on “Half-baked”. There is a slight bias to the bottom end, but not a significant one.

This result doesn’t surprise me, as I’ve seen and heard a lot of user comments to that effect, and I’ve made such comments myself.  I’m not saying that this poll is definitive proof of anything, but it sits pretty well with my perception of what AutoCAD users generally think.

Now I’d like you to consider a related question. If we accept for the sake of argument that the average major new AutoCAD feature is half-baked, is that necessarily a bad thing? There are some valid arguments that can be made for pushing out features before they are complete. I’ll examine the pros and cons from my perspective later, but for now I’d … Full post

Leech marketing by IMSI – Part 2 – A/CAD

The IMSI free CAD product that it is putting up against AutoCAD LT has a very interesting name: A/CAD LT*. Does A/CAD sound familiar to anyone? I vaguely seem to remember some other CAD product with a very similar name. Hmm, let me think, it has a main program file called acad.exe and many other support files called acad.something, it has had its name abbreviated to ACAD by its users for decades… No, sorry, the name somehow eludes me.

I’m not a trademark lawyer (or any other sort), but here’s what I can tell from a quick glance at the USPTO site. It appears that Autodesk had ACAD registered as a trademark in 1986 with a first use in 1983, and that the registration was abandoned in 1987. It was registered again in 1988 and abandoned again in 1992. That may be an unfortunate lapse. I wonder what else … Full post

Leech marketing by IMSI – Part 1 – AU

A while back, I received an email from IMSI, makers of TurboCAD. The information I gained from that email is now public knowledge thanks to an advertisement in AUGI World and other exposure, so I guess I can let you all in on it. Here it is:

Everyone knows AutoCAD is a fixture in our industry.

But is AutoCAD LT? When is the last time AutoCAD LT has really been pushed?

And how about working with Google SketchUp? Doesn’t seem like Autodesk is too keen on that.

Please join us for a special FIRST LOOK of a new CAD application — that is sure to surprise.

Email for appointment [removed] or call 1.415.[removed].

FIRST LOOK slots on Tuesday Dec 2nd through Thursday Dec 4th at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bob Mayer
Chief Operating Officer, IMSI/Design, LLC
Tel: 415-[removed]
Cell: 415-[removed]

P.S. … Full post

What a crock!

Just when I thought it wasn’t possible for my Autodesk discussion group experience to get any worse, it has. Much worse.

I stated before that in the 15 November update, some Einstein decided it would be fun to copy my private work email address over the top of my public user ID, automatically making it visible to all and sundry in many places. I should note at this point that publishing somebody’s email address without consent is illegal in some locations, including here in Australia. So to the best of my knowledge (not that I’m a lawyer), Autodesk is not only perpetrating a grossly irresponsible breach of privacy, it’s also breaking the law.

Attempting to fix this myself failed, because of some new introduced bug in the login system. When changing my user ID from my email address to “Steve Johnson”, the screen falsely claimed that the data entered was … Full post

Autodesk discussion group maintenance failure

I must admit that I wasn’t really expecting the November 15 Autodesk discussion group maintenance effort to come up with the goods and make everything all better again. However, it appears that even my lowly expectations were nothing but naive optimism.

Here are the changes I see:

  • The old messages and Plain Text new messages that had their paragraphs stripped out have had them returned. This is the end of the good news, as far as I can tell. If you only ever like reading positive things, particularly about Autodesk, I suggest you stop reading now.
  • Rich Text messages have had superfluous paragraphs introduced, and other formatting issues. The more you edit a message, the worse it gets. Try switching back and forth between Rich Text and Plain Text a few times, it’s a crock.
  • My email address has been newly exposed to the spambots as my user ID, and … Full post

Photoshop disasters blog

I love this blog:

OK, some of the “disasters” are a bit nitpicking, but there are some truly awful image manipulation efforts out there, some associated with very big companies. Look back over the archives, there are some real classics. Lesson to large companies: don’t penny-pinch, it’s not worth it.

I can’t remember any Autodesk marketing image disasters, although some of you may remember being bemused by the relevance of the the short-lived Subscription Cow. The BENTLEY BIN image is pretty funny, though. Does anybody have any other CAD-related examples?

Autodesk discussion group maintenance this weekend

According to a notice on the Autodesk discussion groups, they will be down for maintenance for a while this wekend. The scheduled downtime period (in terms of GMT/UTC) is 7 AM Saturday, 15 November 2008 to 5 AM Sunday, 16 November 2008. Fingers crossed for some big improvements, they are desperately overdue!

Autodesk discussion groups – signs of life?

After an extraordinarily long period of total silence about the dreadful state of the appallingly-updated Autodesk discussion groups, it seems that the sleeping monster has raised an eyelid. Although it unfortunately indicates that Autodesk intends to try to patch up the new system rather than throwing it away, there is now a “sticky” post at the top of each forum containing the following text:

Your continued patience is appreciated as we work to resolve the discussion group issues you have been reporting. We understand the impact these issues have on your productivity, and want to assure you we are continuing to troubleshoot and resolve. We’ve posted an update under “Help” to provide awareness and status of the issues we are working on. We’ll regularly update this as improvements are made.

Never mind the glacial nature of the response, it’s good to see that an acknowledgment has finally been made … Full post

Rate Autodesk, vote once

I’ve added some new polls that ask you to rate Autodesk in five specific areas. I’ve seen some criticism of Autodesk in these and other areas, but that doesn’t mean the criticism is valid. I’d like to know what you think. Please be fair, and base your votes on your own experiences. If you have suggestions for similar polls, add a comment.

I have closed several other polls, and will be discussing the results later.

Poll abuse

On the subject of polls, I have noticed that more than one person has been voting multiple times. While this is technically possible for people who have access to the Internet via multiple IP addresses, it’s obviously not desirable. Like the forthcoming US elections, the idea is that you have one vote each. While you might be able to work around that restriction to give yourself a little extra influence on the result, … Full post

Ways in which the crash could be good for Autodesk

No, I don’t mean the sort of crash where AutoCAD stops working. The current financial crisis, I mean. I must preface these comments with a disclaimer. I have no qualifications in finance and make no claim of financial expertise. These are purely a layman’s thoughts. Don’t buy or sell stock based on what I have to say here. Toss a coin instead.

So, what on earth am I thinking? I’m thinking that although Autodesk (along with most other companies) will undoubtedly suffer greatly from the coming economic conditions, it’s not all dark cloud. Here are some potential silver linings.

Autodesk is cashed up. If its competitors aren’t all carrying enough fat to survive the lean times, Autodesk could come out of the post-crash period with greater market share than before. Of course, this is contingent on Autodesk having products, customer service and a customer-friendly outlook that are attractive enough to … Full post

The Autodesk discussion groups are awful

Yes, the Autodesk discussion groups are still awful. In other breaking news, the Pacific Ocean continues to be wet.

I seldom visit them any more, but I just hopped on to the Autodesk discussion groups to see what progress had been made in fixing the many problems that have been pointed out here, on the groups themselves, in official problem reports, and elsewhere. Little or none, it seems.

Search? There are still apparently only 188 uses of the word “autocad” in the tens of thousands of posts in the AutoCAD groups, ever. Editor? It not only still vacuums, when I just tried it out it vacuumed even harder than before, with delays of over a minute when switching between tabs and nasty screen formatting issues when the switch eventually occurred. Attachments that can’t be viewed? Check. Visible email addresses? Yup, still there. Everything I looked at was just as bad … Full post